Responses to Islamic Awareness

The Queen of Sheba and Sun Worship


Introduction

I am somewhat skeptical of the various "moon god" theories. However, there are a number of issues in the "Islamic Awareness" article "The Queen of Sheba and Sun Worship" (*) which require some comments concerning the facts and the stacking of evidence.

In this article, the "Islamic Awareness" attempts to wiggle the Qur'an out of an historic error - that the Queen of Sheba, and her subjects, worshiped the sun when, in fact, the moon was the main deity worshiped.

So, the "Islamic Awareness" team will take us through a number of selected quotations which are cobbled together in order to convince us that the moon god, worshiped by the Sabaeans, was really a sun god.

Chronology and Location of the Kingdom of Sheba

Briefly, the "Islamic Awareness" team tells us that Sheba is in southwestern Arabia, where modern-day Yemen is located, and that the events in question took place sometime around 970-930 B.C.

They also tell us the national god of Sheba was Ilmaqah, and say that it is the Christian missionaries who claim that this god is the moon-god. The Christian missionaries are not alone in this opinion. The Yemen Times says [of the Sirwah Temple] :

"This temple which is also called Ilmaqah (the moon) is the main god of the Sabaeens. There were many symbols to refer to this god, such as the bull's face. This shows how the moon was held in higher esteem than the sun, probably because the benefit caravans got from the moon."

ARCHAEOLOGICAL EVIDENCE

The "Islamic Awareness" team goes through a lengthy discussion of the Sabaen deities, and we are introduced to Mahram Bilqis, an ancient archaeological site first excavated by the American Foundation for the Study of Man (AFSM) who first studied the site in the early 1950's "in order to conduct excavations at the Temple of the Moon deity, 'Ilumquh, known locally as the Mahram Bilqis". [Source] The Yemen Times calls this site the "Moon Temple, the legendary home of the Queen of Sheba, mentioned in the Bible, the Holy Qura'an and the Ethiopic Holy Book, is a great historic edifice that bears testimony to the civilization that once flourished there."

Before we look at the "Islamic Awareness" team's sophistry, we must examine what is known of Sabaean culture. Ilumquh [ ] was, in fact, the moon god of the Sabaeans as well as the pre-Christian Aksumites. The disk and crescent were placed at the top of monuments [for example], and also appeared on Aksumite coins prior to the conversion of Aksum to Christianity.

The "Islamic Awareness" team makes a great deal of the observation that the Mahram Bilqis is dedicated to Ilmaqah, yet there is no inscription calling him the moon god at this temple which is hardly surprising since this god was the national god and everyone knew that he was the moon god. Armed with their fallacy of the argument from silence, the "Islamic Awareness" team declares the Mahram Bilqis a solar temple! But on what do they base this claim? The "Islamic Awareness" team goes on a quote mining expedition and finds a quote from The Anchor Bible Dictionary and the Encyclopedia Britannica [which, by the way, says that Ilumquh is a moon god], that the bull motif, which is associated with Ilumquh, indicates that this god is masculine and is, therefore, a sun god. In most Semitic religions, and in some ancient European pagan religions, the lunar deity was feminine and the solar deity was masculine. This was not the case with the Sabaeans! The Sabaean moon god was masculine. Nicholas Clapp [Sheba: Through the Desert in Search of the Legendary Queen, Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 2001, page 264] says that the walls of the temple form a semi-circle - like the moon. The temple also contains a number of sculptures of ibex, the Sabean's totemic animal, and these ibex have crescent-shaped horns.

LITERARY EVIDENCE

Having failed to prove that the main Sabaean deity was a sun god, rather than a moon god, the "Islamic Awareness" team searches for literary evidence to support their claims. They find this in the Kebra Nagast, or the Book of the Glory of Kings of Ethiopia a text held in high regard by Ethiopian Christians and the Rastafarians. Chapter 28M tells us that the Queen of Sheba swore to Solomon:

"From this moment I will not worship the sun, but will worship the Creator of the sun, the God of ISRAEL.

With this statement in hand, the "Islamic Awareness" team assures us that "there is no Islamic influence on this book". This is simply not true. E. A. Wallis Budge, who translated this text from Ethiopic into English, says in the Preface:

In the succeeding centuries, probably as a result of the widespread conquests of MUHAMMAD and his KHALIFAHS, the Coptic text was in whole or part translated into Arabic, and during the process of translation many additions were made to it, chiefly from Arabic sources. Last of all this Arabic version was translated into Ethiopic, and proper names underwent curious transformations in the process.

So it is hardly surprising that the text, as in now exists, claims that the Queen of Sheba worshiped the sun, since that is what Muslims believe.

Conclusion

In the introduction of this article, I said that I was skeptical of some of the various moon god theories concerning the origins of Allah. Regardless of how Allah originated, it is clear that Allah is not the God of the Prophets and Apostles. Therefore, theories concerning Allah's origins, while interesting, are not of great importance to me.

What is important is that historical facts should be properly studied and analyzed without stacking the evidence in order to fit what one believes. The "Islamic Awareness" article is nothing more than a conclusion in search of an argument. When faced with the facts, which disprove the truth of the Qur'an, rearranging the data and stacking the evidence will never solve the problem.

Ilumquh was the moon god of the Sabaeans as well as the pre-Christian Aksumites. There is much archaeological evidence that demonstrates that this lunar deity was the major god of the Sabaens and Aksumites. There are numerous monuments which have the disk and crescent of Ilumquh placed at the top, and many Aksumite coins, prior to the conversion of Aksum to Christianity, also contain Ilumquh's crescent. The Kebra Nagast does not help the "Islamic Awareness" case for the Qur'an since the scholar who translated this work into English says that the text was influenced by Muslims.

The Qur'an is in error when it claims that the Queen of Sheba worshiped the sun. The Sabaens, according to those who excavated the Mahram Bilqis and according to the Yemenites, worshiped a lunar deity.

Andrew Vargo


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